On instructions from the Central Vigilance Commission, the CBI on Monday decided to expand the scope of its investigation into the scam in coal blocks allocation to private firms between 1993 and 2004.

The probe will now cover the blocks given during the six-year tenure of the BJP-led NDA government, from 1998 to 2004, besides those allotted by the Congress government led by P.V. Narasimha Rao after 1993 and the United Front government from 1996 to 1998. Till now, the CBI was investigating private companies that got blocks between 2004 and 2009.

As per the Comptroller and Auditor-General’s report, between 1993 and 2009, 215 blocks were allotted and 99 of them went to government companies and 105 to private firms, while 11 were allotted for ultra-mega power projects. Twenty-four blocks were de-allocated between 2003 and 2011 for non-performance by companies.

However, according to the CAG report, still a majority of the allocations were made under the Congress-led UPA government after 2004. Till June 2004, only 39 blocks (net) were allotted, while 71 allocations were made between July 2004 and September 2006 (till the time the matter was referred to the Ministry of Mines for acting on amendments to the Mines and Mineral (Development and Regulation) Act for introduction of competitive bidding), and another 142 after July 2004. Notably, as on March 31, 2011, 194 blocks stood allocated, said the CAG report. Since the CBI investigation began, another 13 blocks have been de-allocated.

On representations from MPs, Coal Minister Shriprakash Jaiswal wrote to the CVC last week, seeking a CBI probe into the allocations since 1993 when the government started giving blocks to private players for captive use. Congress MPs in particular alleged massive irregularities in the allocations under the NDA rule.

Congress MP Sandeep Dikshit alleged in a letter that there were malpractices in the allocations from 1993 and 2004, and demanded a thorough inquiry into all allocations during the period. “In many cases in which joint ventures have been formed between the State government corporations and private parties, there is information that many of these were done through favours to certain parties and under political pressure, and due diligence was not followed in the selection of partners by the State government corporations.”

Mr. Dikshit also alleged that the “State governments, especially in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa, clandestinely gave mines to private players through the joint venture route, and no known system of fair play or competition has been followed.” He demanded that all coal blocks allotted since 1993 be investigated by the CBI, especially the systems through which the State governments selected private companies, and the criteria and guidelines that were followed.

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